Asian checking her hair on a mirror

Some girls get their periods earlier, while others develop breasts faster. The same goes for gray or white hair. There’s no specific timeline for the things that happen to your body. White hair causes range from the lack of melanin to lifestyle choice to genetics – and neither of these is exclusive to the more senior phase of your life.

What Causes White Hair?

While white hair is usually associated with aging, much research suggests otherwise. According to the 2021 study “Hair Graying Pattern Depends on Gender, Onset Age and Smoking Habits,” the age white hair appears differs per person – with over 51.1% of the 1,002 Korean men and women surveyed noticing white hair in their 30s. The occurrence, however, increases by 10% every decade after that. 

There is one primary cause of white hair: melanin or, rather, its absence. Like your skin, melanin is the substance behind your hair coloring. It’s true that as you grow older, your body creates less, which accelerates the growth of white hair. However, your body may also not be predisposed to melanin production. No matter how old you are, here are some of the most common white hair causes.

You come from a family of silver foxes.

The gene responsible for graying hair is called IRF4, which is also present in lighter-hued shades, like blonde. According to the 2016 study published in Nature Communications, your race may also be a factor. Caucasians tend to develop white hair in their early 30s and the likelihood increases if you have fairer hair. Asians, on the other hand, generally get white hair in their late 30s.

You’re stressed. 

White hair can be a physical manifestation of your emotional and . For many years, experts contested stress as one of the many white hair causes. However, a 2020 paper in Nature may have revealed the missing link. Stem cell and regenerative biologists discovered a cellular pathway where this “transformation” occurs. Anxiety-induced white hair is supposedly caused by a loss of stem cells in the hair follicle.

Another study, this time in 2021, also confirms that stress can prompt white hair. However, the explanation, while also cellular, differs. According to Columbia University researchers, stress-related changes in the mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse, results in white hair. 

You’re not eating to maintain your hair color.

If you’ve not warmed up to white hair yet, you may be covering it up with hair dyes. Why not try a different form of hair maintenance? Eating a balanced diet can help manage premature white hair. Deficiencies in protein, Vitamin B12, copper, iron, and zinc can be white hair causes. Certain lifestyle choices such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption may also be factors in your gray situation.

You have a medical condition. 

A 2018 paper in PLoS Biology shows that an overactive immune response could coax out sudden white hair. Another possible reason could be thyroid dysfunction. Some medications can also cause white hair.

Your environment is the culprit.

Are you averse to hats or headscarves? Research at the University of Pennsylvania states that exposure to pollution and can cause oxidative stress. This, in turn, can cause hydrogen peroxide buildup in hair follicles that help lose their pigmentation.

Hair naturally produces hydrogen peroxide, but the enzyme catalase breaks it down before it does anything to your hair. Like melanin, your body produces less catalase as you grow older. It is yet another reason white hair speeds up as you get older.

Can You Prevent White Hair?

Scientists have been studying ways to reverse white hair growth. However, nothing has been conclusive. If you’re committed to your original hair color, you can find ways to maintain your hair’s melanin by eating right, managing your stress levels, and protecting your hair.

If you’re leaning into your white hair (jump in on the !), then ! White hair is thinner and more fragile, so you must keep it clean, nourished, and healthy. Try using TRESemmé Detox & Nourish Shampoo, which has ginger and to detoxify your tresses and replenish lost nutrients.

When you’re in that in-between stage and still warming up to the proverbial and literal gray area, you can use a temporary color like TRESemmé Root Touch-up Spray, which comes in black, dark brown, and light brown. Shake the bottle well and spray about six to eight inches above the roots. It dries in one minute, which makes the entire process around two to three minutes. It’s low commitment since you can wash it off after. 

There are many white hair causes. Age is only one of them. Having gray strands is only part of your hair’s life cycle. Whatever color your hair, always take the best care of it.